The postman made me uneasy, though I could never put my finger on why. I wasn't afraid of him but there was just something about his presence that set my back teeth on edge. He kept to himself; was always whistling, early or late and it always seemed to be the same repetitive, mysterious tune. I'd had always envied others their ability to whistle. The best I could produce was a discordant half-blast that was more spittle than sound. I didn't envy him though. For I knew, as did all the little kids in the village, that it was bad luck to whistle at night.
I lived in a shanty-like neighbourhood that was called The Alley. This alleyway was really just a dirt track that connected several tiny houses, crowded together in a small space. Everyone knew their neighbour and their neighbours' business, which was avidly discussed on many an idle evening, across back fences and front stoops. The house I lived in was a two bedroom affair with no hallway and was just barely adequate for a family of four. My neighbours included Miss Chewitt, who lived in the house behind mine, with her daughter, son in law and grandchild. Adjacent to Miss Chewitt, was the postman whose name I never knew but I always called him Whistler.
It was Friday, just a few days before All Hallows Eve. There's no season called autumn on the Island but night comes quickly at this time of year. When Venus appeared in the bleached-blue sky and the shadows grew thick in the corners of the yard, I knew it was time to close the windows against the night air. We didn't have many and my job was simple ― wind down the louvers in the living room and kitchen, pull in the shutters in both bedrooms and hook them in place.
I was tugging at the stubborn shutter in the bedroom that my little sister and I shared, leaning half out the window frame to do it, when suddenly, every single hair on my body began standing on end. The tree frogs stopped singing and there was a sort of suffocating hush, an odd change of pressure in the air that made my head feel as though it were caught in a vice. Some instinct caused me to look towards Whistler's house and what I saw there almost made me swallow my tongue in fear.
Visible in the window of the dilapidated wooden house, was a shadow blacker than tar ― a shape, yet not a shape as it had no known proportions. But it had eyes; red, glowing eyes, floating in a mass of impossible blackness and on what passed for a head, was a protrusion that resembled horns. More terrifying still was the overwhelming sense of wrongness that emanated from the thing.
I stood on tiptoe, frozen half-in and half-out of the window, incapable of movement, incapable of making a sound, eyes bulging as I tried to make sense of what I was seeing. What is that? Oh God, what is that? Am I awake?
I didn't know how long I looked at the thing or how long I might have gone on looking, but a flurry of movement to my right snapped me out of my terrified trance and made me look towards Miss Chewitt's front door. The woman was standing in the open doorway, motioning wildly and whispering as loudly as she dared, "Shut the window, quick, quick! Hurry girl, go back inside! Before it realizes that you can see it."
I stared open-mouthed at my neighbour for a moment. I had heard rumours that she could see spirits. It was whispered by the grown folk that she knew all sorts of spells and charms that could ward off any Obeah that an enemy might cast against you. I had had no trouble believing the rumours. I knew that spirits were real but I'd never imagined that anything like that terrible, black presence, lurking in Whistler's house, could exist.
Obeying Miss Chewitt , I pulled the shutter close then ran out of the room. My mom was in the living room with my baby sister, trying to coax her to eat. I flung myself into the chair next to her and was about to let fly a torrent of words when something stilled my tongue.
The sound was very soft, almost inaudible but I recognized it at once ― Whistler's favourite tune. Though it never grew in volume, the whistling seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere at once. I saw my mom raise her head to listen, a puzzled look on her face, her lips unconsciously pursed in an expression of unease then my sister started bawling and my mother's attention returned to soothing her youngest child.
Stomach churning with dread, I drew my knees to my chin and began to whisper the 'Our Father' prayer. I'd just gotten to the phrase, thy will be done when the whistling abruptly stopped.
I stayed close to my mom for the rest of that night and when it was time to go to bed, I begged to sleep in my parents' room. They let me, even though my father said that I was too old for such foolishness. In the morning I convinced myself that I'd dreamt the whole thing.
It was easy to maintain this belief till later that day when blue-uniformed men, wheeling a stretcher, came to take Whistler's body away. A heart attack, one of the grown folks said. Must have happened in his sleep.
My eyes sought Miss Chewitt. She was standing among the crowd of neighbours, discussing the postman's untimely end. Sensing my stare, the woman turned and pressed a finger to her lips.
I knew with certainty then that the postman's death had been caused by awful, sinister means. Someone had summoned a powerful jumbie. Something that I was never meant to see and hoped to never see again. I was certain too of one more thing. Last night, no human lips had whistled that familiar tune.